Senate Race: Legislative District 20

Matthew Kassel | November 7, 2011
Lesniak casts long shadow over Republican challenger’s chances

Incumbent Sen. Raymond Lesniak is a sort of Democratic institution in the 20th District. He was first elected to the Assembly in 1977 and has served as a senator for the past 28 years.

Candidate Helen Rosales, Lesniak’s Republican opponent, believes that is exactly the problem.

“Morale is down,” Rosales said. “People don’t even want to vote. What for? [Lesniak’s] going to win anyway.”

Rosales, who has lived in Elizabeth since she was 17, is an accounting manager who has supported the Republican Party “in every aspect” since 2003. This year Phil Morin, chairman of the Union County Republican Committee, asked her to run for Senate.

Rosales said she is trying to run a rigorous campaign despite that “I never come up in the newspapers, because most of them are controlled by the Democrats,” she said.

“The biggest issue is the control the Democratic Party has here over Elizabeth,” Rosales added.

Lesniak said he doesn’t know much about his opponent.

“I haven’t seen any of her literature or run across her campaign other than the fact that she’s a Republican and I believe that Republican policies as outlined by Christie have not been good for this district,” he said.

Rosales said that she has been taking campaign classes and that she has a team of people doing research for her on the bills that are pending in the legislature.

To Lesniak, who chairs the Senate Economic Growth Committee, the biggest issue in the 20th is jobs.

“First and foremost is job creation,” he said. “That’s the first, second, and third most important issue for our citizens. Funding for education is also critical for preschool and afterschool as well.”

Lesaniak explained that funding for education is connected to property taxes.

“The more the state pays for property taxes, the less people have to,” he said.

The Republican is aware of her slim chances, but believes her hard work will pay off.

“Because of my homework, I think I have a chance here,” she said. “Lesniak’s done some good things, but people have complaints about him. I’m working hard. I’m talking to people. I’m not stopping: This is my full-time job.”

Lesniak touted his own track record: “I work hard for the things that people in my district need: jobs, easing property taxes, and aid to education.”

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